Difference between revisions of "Wait time"

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Revision as of 23:14, 28 March 2011

Sadker and Sadker investigated the effect of wait time (the duration of a pause after a question is posed) on differential participation in the class discussion; their study and observation of undergraduate classrooms found that teachers unconsciously give white males more wait time than female students and students of color. Sadker and Sadker hypothesize that longer pauses after questions convey a "vote of confidence" for the student's answer and thus motivate participation.

To be more mindful of differential teacher-student interactions in the classroom, they suggest that undergraduate professors attempt to track and codify participation in class discussion, formulate plans to randomize grouped class seating, include including group and presentation work, and, of course, increase wait times.

To this last point, various studies by Stahl have shown that increasing wait times to 3 or more seconds has numerous positive effects for both teacher and student in class discussion across diverse ages and disciplines. These benefits include increased number and length of relevant responses volunteered as well as improved questioning techniques by the teacher. Typical increased wait times lasted between 3 and 7 seconds for high-level questions, as opposed to <1 second wait time for all questions observed in many classrooms.


  • Sadker, and Sadker, D. (1994).
  • Stahl, R. (1994). Using "think-time" and "wait-time" skillfully in the classroom. ERIC Digest. Bloomington, IN: ERIC clearinghouse for Social Studies/Social Science Education. ED370885. <www.ed.gov/databases/ERIC_Digests/ed370885.html>

Comments: Sadker article cited in this entry may be iffy since only summaries and review of research were available online; the article is well-received however and cited multiple times on various sites. The issue of wait time is well-researched, however, across ages and disciplines [see additional resources below]. Simply counting "one Mississippi, two Mississippi..." after posing a question seems to be a very practical and accessible (yet still unknown) teaching practice for professors.

Rating: 8

Additional Resources

  • Rowe, M. (1987). Wait-time: Slowing down may be a way of speeding up. American Educator, 11, 38-43.
  • Tobin. K. (1987). The role of wait time in higher cognitive learning. Review of educational research,57, 69-95.
  • Swift, J. Nathan; Gooding, C. Thomas "Interaction of wait time feedback and questioning instruction on middle school science teaching" Journal of Research in Science Teaching, vol. 20, Issue 8, pp.721-730